Although the leaves are very bitter and not edible, the stalks of the cardoon are fine to eat! The stalks have a mild herbal flavour, similar to that of artichoke. However, they can bitter and fibrous, so here they are made into a simple, strained, soup with leeks.
BEWARE SPIKES when preparing the Cardoon. Gloves are recommended! For more cardoon recipes try here.
Cardoon & Leek soup. Spring onion, black pepper and thyme garnish.
· 2-3 stalks of cardoon
· 1 leek
· Vegetable or chicken Stock powder (try to use a decent stock for this)
· Bay leaves
· Black pepper
· Oil or butter
· Optional: single cream, thyme leaves, spring onion, fennel tops etc.
1. Remove any browned parts of the leek. Cut of the very base and slice in half lengthways. Slice thinly and wash the slices well in cold water.
2. Add the washed leeks to a small saucepan with a pinch of salt. Add some vegetable or olive oil. Gently sweat the leeks on a low heat until they are completely soft, be careful not to burn. For an extra rich soup, use butter instead of oil.
3. In a separate saucepan, bring some water to the boil.
4. Prepare the cardoon stalks by removing the leaves, the top & bottom ends and trimming/peeling away any tough edges. The soup will be passed through a sieve, so the fibres don’t need to be removed at this point.
5. Slice the cardoon stalks into 1-2cm chunks and wash well.
6. As soon as they are washed, add to the boiling water (they can go brown if left out).
7. Boil for 3-5minutes then rinse under cold water.
8. Add the blanched cardoon stalks to the leeks.
9. Add one bay leaf. Cover the leeks & cardoon with stock (about 700ml, depending on how much cardoon/leek you have).
10. Simmer, with a lid on, for 40-45minutes until the cardoons are soft.
11. Leave to cool slightly before decanting into a tall sided jug or blender. Blend the soup for about a minute, to get it as smooth as possible.
12. Strain the liquid through a sieve back into the pan, pressing down with the back of a ladle to get all the liquid out. Discard the fibrous parts.
13. Gently reheat the soup. Taste for salt and more if necessary.
14. To serve, season with plenty of black pepper.
Optional toppings; a drizzle of oat/dairy cream, fresh thyme leaves, chopped spring onion, fennel tops etc.
This is a very simple, thin soup. For a thicker soup, add peeled potatoes to the cardoon and cook until soft. Alternatively, add 1-2 tsp of flour halfway through cooking the leeks to thicken the soup. The sweetness of the leeks will balance out any bitterness in the cardoons but onions, or even celery can be used instead. The cardoon is a very subtle flavour, so be careful not to overpower it.